Set in 1983 and fully exploiting the aesthetic of the time, wizened critics like to peg the Stranger Things success down to the show's nostalgia value – its obsession with, and references to, Steven Spielberg, as well as the endless appearances of the foods and pop-culture of the time.
But the thriller's appeal is in the fundamentals of its storytelling. The first series gave us charming nerds, a pack of underdogs to root for, young love, Government conspiracies, dysfunctional but loving families and the allure of superpowers. It was also set in an era when children had a modicum of agency and could go off by themselves and have adventures – like The Famous Five but with BMX bikes.
Stranger Things 2 gives us all that goodness. Certainly we're offered a clunkier series than the first, with a slow start and scenes that are often painfully self-aware (shots of kids playing with the Starship Enterprise and wearing Ghostbuster costumes do not a good drama make). Admittedly perhaps some of the writing is also a little less riveting.
But, the important components that made us fall so hard the first time are back with abundance in season two, alongside very clever new additions.
This series, the men, women and children of Hawkins have something other than the Demogorgon to concern themselves with – as they all grapple with the effects of the first season and resulting Post Traumatic Stress Disorders. They face a new challenge of discerning between which monsters are truly after them and which monsters are 'just' inside their heads.
Despite exploding into dust at the end of the last series, the central character Eleven is back, played flawlessly by Millie Bobby Brown. Thankfully we find her back alongside the awesome foursome, Dustin (Gaten Matarazzo), Mike (Finn Wolfhard), Lucas (Caleb McLauglin) and Will (Noah Schnapp). Refreshingly, we actually get to know a lot more about Will this time, and Schnapp must have been thrilled to learn he'd be doing something other than shivering in the Upside Down this time around.
Alongside the old favourites such as Joyce (Winona Ryder) and Jim Hopper (David Harbour) who also make a strong return, there are some new kids on the block: a red-haired, skateboarding newbie at school Max (Sadie Sink) and a portly love-interest for Joyce, both of whom shake up the established dynamics of the show.
What comes next is pure, unmissable TV. Make sure to tell your friends.
|What||Stranger Things 2, Netflix review|
|Where||UK Netflix | MAP|
27 Oct 17 – 31 Jan 18, 8:00 AM – 12:00 AM